For the past month, I’ve been hosting weekly conversations at The Table. These are gatherings of less than 8 people, focused around a particular topic. People from all over the world have joined, as we discussed education, community, and the arts.
For years, I have practiced hosting conversations. I’ve discovered different ways to ask questions, the power of framing and reframing dialogue, the immense power of language, and the challenge we all face when presented with new things that can change the way we see the world.
Many of us have experienced moments when conversations get “intense” or when they shift from dialogue to debate. The increase in intensity can be wonderful. It means that things are getting personal, important, and worth defending. The shift from dialogue to debate is more deflating for me. It means that we’ve moved from an exchange to a fight. From a collaborative effort of relating to a competition in which there needs to be a winner and a loser.
I love the intensity, but I don’t like the shift. There is a way to have one without the other – I’ve experienced it multiple times. It takes a lot of sensitivity to the people involved in the conversation, including ourselves. It takes an ability to hold space for ideas that may seem mutually exclusive, or oppositional to our own world view. It take a desire to place the act of relating, as practiced in dialogue, as a higher value than the success of a particular idea, or our own power of convincing.
While there is a continual battle of ideas in the greater culture and of course the marketplace, I wonder if we can keep that battle from claiming too many human relationships by keeping our own conversations from becoming debates.
If you want to experience The Table and join a conversation, find out more here.